Immucor Buys Duke Spinout Sentilus

Ashutosh “Tosh” Chilkoti, Ph.D.

Sentilus, a 2-year-old Durham biotech company, has been purchased by a Georgia blood testing company run by the son of a former Durham mayor.

The purchase of Sentilus, one of several companies founded by Duke University faculty entrepreneur Ashutosh “Tosh” Chilkoti, Ph.D., was announced today by William Hawkins, CEO of the Norcross, Georgia blood testing company Immucor. They declined to disclose terms of the transaction.

Chilkoti, chair of Duke’s department of biomedical engineering, created Sentilus in 2012 with his Duke grad student and subsequent business partner, Angus Hucknall, Ph.D.

NCBiotech grant propels company's success

In 2012 the North Carolina Biotechnology Center helped the scientists commercialize their technology called Femtoarrays, an inkjet-printed system for protecting blood cells from contamination during lab testing, with a $48,000 Technology Enhancement Grant. NCBiotech has supported numerous Chilkoti technologies with at least seven grants since 1996, totaling some $600,000.

Sentilus has also been one of the scores of life science start-up companies enrolling in NCBiotech's BATON referral network, which links service providers with the companies to help them survive their early years.

"Angus and I are deeply grateful for the support of NCBiotech over the past few years," said Chilkoti.  "This support took many forms: financial support through a TEG grant to Duke to help develop this technology, as well as the advice and and support of NCBiotech staff members such as Rob Lindberg, who have been strong advocates and champions of the technology developed by Sentilus." 

Broad applications in lab tests

"We are very impressed with Sentilus' Femtoarrays technology, which we think will be a great fit with our transfusion business as a potential next generation technology platform," said Hawkins, who took the helm of Immucor after serving several years as CEO of medical technology giant Medtronic. His father, James, who served as Durham Mayor from 1971 to 1975, died at his Wilmington home in 2010.

"Femtoarrays will underpin a full complement of next-generation immunohematology assays," he added. "Additionally, we believe the technology has the potential for broad application throughout in-vitro diagnostics."

Besides his work with Duke’s biomedical engineering department, Chilkoti is also director of the university’s Center for Biologically Inspired Materials and Materials Systems.

"We are excited to be teaming up with Immucor to advance the development of our proprietary technology," said Chilkoti. "With Immucor's focus on ensuring transfusion and transplantation safety, we are excited to join forces with them to bring our novel microarray-based technology to the market."

PhaseBio, one of the earlier companies started by Chilkoti, relocated from North Carolina to Philadelphia in 2010.

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